Antoinette considers herself 'Jewish by discovery.' Her father's Italian Catholic family came from Sicily and her mother's Protestant family from England, Ireland and Scotland. Her parents eloped and were married by a Baptist minister in a small wedding. Antoinette was born in Washington, DC in 1945. Her mother brought up her two daughters in a local Baptist church, inculcating in them her personal values of tolerance and acceptance.
Producer DAVAR: The Vermont Jewish Women's History ProjectAudio/Visual sound, color
Her mother worked as a secretary for the State Department and her father was a professional gemologist. Although Antoinette studied ballet and was offered a scholarship to the Sadler's Wells Ballet in London, she instead pursued a bachelor's degree and graduated from Mary Washington College at the University of Virginia with a BA in sociology. Twenty years later she found herself following in her fatherâs footprints studying at the Columbia School of Gemology, which her father had founded in
Silver Spring, Maryland.
Antoinette is a world re-known gemologist who has written several books on gems and stones. 'I do mining and get calls from other countries to help their miners understand what they are looking at. I teach them and help them get their [new} industries off the ground.'
In 1975, Antoinette married her second husband Stuart Matlins, who was a practicing Jew living in New York City. She began to explore Judaism more and found it fascinating, engaging and in sync with her own basic values and beliefs. She formally converted to Judaism in the late 1970's in New York. Antoinette went to the mikveh and an Orthodox rabbi witnessed her conversion, so that she could be recognized as a Jew, even in the State of Israel.
After their children went off to college, Antoinette and Stuart moved to Woodstock, Vermont. Her husband founded Jewish Lights Publications, which is considered the largest independent Jewish publishing company in the world. Antoinette became one of the founders of Shir Shalom, the Woodstock area Jewish Community. The original congregation of about 35 people first held their Shabbat services in borrowed space at a local church. A much larger congregation now occupies a beautifully renovated barn and farmhouse on the outskirts of Woodstock.
Antoinette Matlins' photo credit: Karen Pike, www.kpikephoto.com
This project was made possible in part by major grants from the Aviva Spring Foundation, Vermont Humanities Council, Damon and Marilee Buffum, Vermont Community Fund and many other individuals and organizations who have supported DAVAR through their donations.